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Publication | 2024

Measuring food system sustainability in Ethiopia: Towards a Multi-Dimensional perspective


  • Ethiopia’s food system sustainability was estimated at 0.46 on a 0–1 scale in 2020.
  • Ethiopia’s sustainability falls short of the 0.75 satisfactory benchmark.
  • Social and Environmental dimensions exceed a discrete sustainability level of 0.5.
  • Economic, and food and nutrition security dimensions receive low scores, below 0.5.


In the face of continuous population growth, environmental degradation, climate extremes and enduring abject poverty, ensuring sustainability of the food system is of crucial importance. As such, developing a comprehensive measure of sustainability has been of a great interest for both researchers and policy makers so as to measure progresses and evaluate the outcomes overtime. This paper attempts to assess the food system sustainability (FSSI) in Ethiopia over the past two decades from 2001 to 2020. A composite index was constructed by aggregating 24 selected food system indicators in the four food system dimensions: environmental, economic, social, and food and nutrition security. ‘Distance to a Reference’ method was employed for data normalization, whereas equal weighting and linear aggregation methods were used for aggregating the indicators in each dimension. The result showed that in a scale from 0 to 1, better score was achieved in the social dimension (0.66), followed by environmental dimension (0.52), and food and nutrition dimension (0.43), with the least recorded in the economic dimension (0.31) in 2020. The overall Food System Sustainability Index for the most recent year (2020) was estimated to be 0.46 which is far below a satisfactory level of food system sustainability (0.75) as per OECD Classification of Sustainability Indices. The result calls for policy interventions aimed at improving the overall food system sustainability in light of the four food system dimensions, in general, and the weak dimensions, in particular. Given the predictable need for more food production in the face of growing populace, interventions that enhance synergies and limit the potential trade-off among the food system outcomes, as well as striking the right balance should be the policy direction for Ethiopia.